COLLEGE PARK -- It was a day to pretend.
A day for a running back named Troy Jackson to close his eyes and put himself in Bo Jackson's shoes, moving powerfully through enormous holes, piling up a hundred yards in the first 17 minutes, the din of the crowd a constant in his ears. "That little critter can skee-daddle," Keith Jackson is telling the country. "He's a pocketful of quick."
It was a day for the Maryland Terrapins to dress up as Michigan, as Oklahoma, as a powerhouse that runs up the score in a hurry on cowering teams. Touchdowns on each of their first four possessions. Big stats adding up. Substitutes on the field before halftime. A happy, happy homecoming.
"It was one of the few times in my four years here that we've been able to draw a breath with six or seven minutes left," coach Joe Krivak said after the 41-13 win.
A day to pretend, to dream, no different than a little girl playing dress-up with her mother's things. A day for a cornerback named Michael Hollis to pull a Ronnie Lott, intercepting two passes and recovering two fumbles. "Looks like he ate some mad for breakfast." A day for Scott Zolak to complete 14 of 18 passes. "Montana can't seem to miss out there."
A day for Krivak to look up to the volatile sky above Byrd Stadium and imagine he was, say, Woody Hayes, his team driving all over the field at a relentless, magnificent pace. "This just isn't much of a ballgame, ladies and gentlemen. And here they come again."
OK, so they weren't Bo or Lott or Woody when they opened their eyes, but a .500 team beating weak Wake Forest, and using the blowout to soften the hurt from crushing defeats on the past two Saturday afternoons. When you have been on the south side of those games as often as the Terps, you learn to indulge yourself whenever you get the chance.
"I never thought I would be sitting on the bench with seven or eight minutes left and see us with 41 points on the board," Zolak said. "It was a great feeling."
We can imagine. Zolak's offense had not scored more than 20 points in a game all season, but it topped that in the first 17 minutes yesterday. First series, 56 yards, touchdown. Second series, 57 yards, touchdown. Wake didn't even have a first down yet. "A plain, old-fashioned country . . . " And as if all that weren't a rare enough sight, the Terps moved the ball, mostly running it right over the Wakesters. This bordered on the shocking. Before yesterday, the Terps were averaging 1.6 yards a carry, just 49 a game, placing them in the same neighborhood as pitiful. Yesterday, (Not Bo) Jackson was good for 91 in the first quarter alone.
"The linemen were all yelling at me in the huddle, saying 'run behind me, run behind me,' " Zolak said. "They were really jacked up."
We can imagine. These were the same linemen who allowed 11 sacks of Zolak against Georgia Tech a week ago. "There was a sense of urgency in our practices this week," tackle Clarence Jones said. "We wanted and needed a good game very badly."
The Terps ran more than twice as much as they had been. They averaged 30 rushing plays in their first six games, 66 yesterday. "The Sooners are just havin' a big ol' party out there, folks." Said center Mitch Suplee: "It got to the point where I was hoping they would start sending in passing plays [from the bench]. We did get pretty tired."
They did, but only in moderation, and only after the Terps had kicked out to a 28-6 lead with three minutes left in the first half. The second half was pure garbage time, highlighted by Wake's inability to score on a series that included a 98-yard kick return and a personal foul against the Terps. (Go ahead, try to figure out that one, Mrs. Fletcher.)
As the Terps showered and dressed afterward, these were the truths they faced: They have won four games, one more than they did in 1989, and although they aren't talented enough to hang with the Michigans and Georgia Techs, they're pretty tough on a good day (Clemson, yesterday).
From here, they have a chance to turn this into a season more surprising than anyone predicted. (Annoying Point No. 1 for Alumni to Consider: Had they not blown the Clemson game, which was in the bag, they would be 5-2 and talking bowls.)
Their last four games are on the road, which is more than a little ridiculous, not unlike the Orioles playing their last home game in July. "Ol' Woody's got up a head of steam on this one." But the first two are against Duke, which is down from last year, and North Carolina, which barely beat Wake. The Terps can win both. (They also can lose both if they don't show up. They are road games.)
If they do win them, they're 6-3 and get a week off to heal before finishing with Penn State and Virginia. So, in essence, the next two games are essential if the Terps want to have their first winning season since 1985, which would be a nice touch and probably save Krivak's job, if it isn't already saved.
"Finishing with four on the road is a little weird," Zolak said, "but it's places we like to play. We'll be all right."
"Bowl scouts were in the stadium as the Terps took on . . . "
More pretending? Or real?